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Football News: Premier League Preview Wednesday 13th December 2017

Premier League Preview Wednesday 13th December 2017
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Wednesday 13th December 2017


Newcastle United v Everton 7:45pm kick off


Dummett (fitness) slight doubt

It is really beginning to become a desperate situation at Newcastle as the Toon are on a run of 7 games without a win and have lost 6 of those. With no real goal threat up front and the defence surprisingly disorganised and completely un-Rafa-like, there is a genuine fear of relegation to be faced. However there is much to give hope for the future, they have an excellent manager, some good players to build around and a fanbase that is fully behind the team. Even more than that, and more importantly than anything happening on the pitch, it looks like the time of the much-despised Mike Ashley is thankfully coming to an end and it will be hoped he would take his sidekick, and major problem, Charnley with him when he goes. Without those two involved Newcastle will be in a much stronger position than they are currently.
Most important player: Dwight Gayle. The pacey forward is the best chance Newcastle have for getting them the goals to survive.


Bolasie (fitness) doubt
Baines (calf strain) out
Stekelenburg (groin strain expected return 18th December) out
Barkley (hamstring injury expected return 26th December) out
Funes Mori (ACL injury expected return 1st April 2018) out
Coleman (broken leg expected return 13th January 2018) out

Three games without defeat has put Everton into a safe midtable position, but they are still a long way off their aim of putting pressure on the top 6 and their away record is poor. After 8 games on the road the Toffees have still not won a single one and have conceded 17 goals. Fixing that form will be Sam Allardyce's priority, as it is relegation stuff, when they are aiming to be a European team. The woeful attacking play on the road will need to improve, Everton having just 6 goals this season in the Premier League away fixtures and we know Allardyce will have the defence well drilled to provide the platform for the attack to build upon. Added to that, a large portion of the doubters are with Allardyce, for now at least, after the result in the derby at the weekend. All things point to an Everton on the rise, the question is how far can they climb?
Most important player: Mason Holgate. He is the one centre back at Everton that looks like he knows what he should be doing. He may only be 21 but he is fast becoming a leader at the back for them.


Defining Battle: normally a match up between a Rafa Benitez side and a Sam Allardyce side would be expected to be a defensive dogfight, as neither manager are known for their expansive, attacking football. Personally I feel that is harsh on both managers, who have shown at times, with the right team and personnel, that they can produce some excellent football. Though this is not the time, nor the right teams or personnel to do so right now. Football is always a results business and neither have got the right blend of players to get results by going expansive. As such the key in this game is to draw out the opposition to create some space in behind. Both teams have that fast nippy striker that wants a ball to run onto, but neither team want to play high up the pitch to allow a gap in behind.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 2-1
Ed004 - 1-1
Ed007 - 0-1
Ed018 - 1-2
Ed025 - 1-1
Ed033 - 0-1


Southampton v Leicester City 7:45pm kick off


Soares (hamstring injury) late fitness test
Long (calf injury) late fitness test

The excellent victory over Everton has turned out to be no launchpad to success, instead the team have shown no signs of it being anything other than a false dawn as the 4-1 win was followed up with a defeat and two draws. Their home form has been decent, at least, with 3 wins, draws and losses in 9 games so far. This game holds all the more importance as they have 3 away games in their next 4 matches afterwards, those games are at Chelsea, Spurs and Man Utd. That is not likely to make it a very merry Christmas for Saints' fans! With those games to follow, this game takes on a lot of importance.
Most important player: Charlie Austin. With Soton struggling to create chances they are relying on Austin to be clinical and take those few chances that come his way.


Huth (foot injury expected return 26th December) out
James (achilles injury expected return 26th December) out

Since the arrival of Claude Puel, Leicester have been steadily climbing up the table to sit in 8th, with their eyes looking up, rather than down. The Foxes comes into this game on the back of 3 wins in a row, but their away form is not good overall, though a lot of that can be put down to how poor the team was prior to the installation of Puel. Added to Leicester's better form of late, there is the incentive of a manager wanting to put one over a previous side and show they were wrong to sack him, which does look to be the case so far. It is very difficult to argue that Saints have improved since losing Puel but very easy to show that Leicester have improved markedly.
Most important player: Riyad Mahrez. If the Algerian is at his best he can destroy teams singlehandedly. Unfortunately it has been a while since he was at his best.


Defining Battle: the Leicester defence is a weakness that can be exploited, if Mauricio Pellegrino lets his players off the leash. The left side has two players with no positional sense and a belief that they are much better players than they actually are. Both will take chances on the ball while lacking the ability to do so. Put pressure on them and they will make mistakes that Southampton can profit from.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 0-1
Ed003 - 1-1
Ed004 - 2-2
Ed007 - 2-1
Ed018 - 2-2
Ed025 - 1-1
Ed033 - 0-1


Swansea City v Manchester City 7:45pm kick off


Routledge (muscle fatigue) late fitness test
Bartley (MCL injury expected return 18th December) out

After a terrible run of 7 games without a win, the Swans finally got one at the weekend against a West Brom side struggling to adapt to the new manager. Now they have the little matter of Man City's visit to deal with. Not really ideal for a team which has just lifted itself off the bottom of the table to face the leaders but they can go into this game with nothing to lose. Will Paul Clement adopt the same cautious approach he has done in every game this season, or will he let the players off the leash? A win here could turn the whole season round and get the fans fully behind Clement for a while.
Most important player: Mike van der Hoorn. The Dutch defender looks to be a quality addition to the backline and he will have to be at his best against Citeh.


Kompany (muscle injury) out
Stones (hamstring injury expected return 6th January 2018) out
Mendy (ACL injury expected return 18th April 2018) out

What can you say about City that has not already been said? 14 wins in a row, unbeaten in the Premier League so far this season and coming into the game on the back of a win in the Manchester derby. They do have injury problems with their backline but Swansea's only real hope is that they are complacent and tired.
Most important player: Nicolas Otamendi. He will be the leader at the back with the injuries. It is unlikely Swans will caise City many problems, so his concentration will need to be top notch.


Defining Battle: the main battle is between the Swansea players and their heads. Will they be brave enough to try and get at City? Or will it be the usual Clement game plan of sitting deep and defending in numbers in the hope of a break? If it is the latter, they could end up on the end of a hiding that is completely demoralising. If they are brave and get a hiding, it would not be as demoralising as they will know the manager had confidence in their ability to take the game to Man City.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 0-2
Ed003 - 0-7
Ed004 - 1-4
Ed007 - 0-4
Ed018 - 0-2
Ed025 - 1-2
Ed033 - 0-3


Liverpool v West Bromwich Albion 8pm kick off


Moreno (ankle injury) major doubt
Grujic (fractured finger) major doubt
Matip (muscle injury) out
Clyne (back injury expected return 10th February 2018) out
Bogdan (ACL injury) out
Sturridge (hamstring injury) doubt

Putting aside the disappointment of failing to hold onto a lead in the Merseyside derby, Liverpool are on a good run of form at present, having gone 7 games without defeat in the Premier League. At Anfield, Rooney's penalty was just the 3rd goal they have conceded in the league and left the Reds unbeaten at home. For all the talk of defensive problems, LFC have been very strong at the back in home matches and the two heavy defeats they suffered skew the figures somewhat. However there are still problems with concentration at the back, which need to be rectified quickly if Liverpool are to rise further up the table.
Most important player: Dejan Lovren. The Croatian has to once again weather a storm of criticism.


Barry (thigh strain expected return 17th December) doubt
Phillips (hamstring injury) late fitness test
Chadli (hamstring injury) late fitness test
Dawson (knee injury expected return 23rd December) out
Morrison (achilles injury expected return 26th December) out

It is now 14 matches since the Baggies won a game, coincidentally the same number as City have won in a row, so maybe some voodoo magic at work by Pep? Or perhaps West Brom are just god awful this season? I am thinking it is probably the latter but you never know. Maybe the Baggies need to get Barry Fry to pee in all 4 corners of the ground at midnight? It would have made a lot more sense than the appointment of Alan Pardew anyway.
Most important player: Ben Foster. The keeper will have to keep his defence organised in front of him, reminding them of the intensive work Tony Pulis will have done with them, as Pardew will not do the same.


Defining Battle: judging by what Pardew has done in the past, he will look to draw Liverpool on and rely on pace out wide to spring out on the counter. The key for them is to not allow themselves to get drawn into solely guarding one player. They have to hold their shape and look to keep the players in place. LFC struggles against a solid team which sits deep and does not allow its central players to be drawn wide to deal with one of their 'fab four'.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-1
Ed003 - 3-0
Ed004 - 3-0
Ed007 - 2-1
Ed018 - 2-1
Ed025 - 3-0
Ed033 - 2-1


Manchester United v Bournemouth 8pm kick off


Rojo (head injury) late fitness test
Fellaini (knee injury) late fitness test
Bailly (groin strain) out
Carrick (heart condition) out
Pogba (suspended) out

It will be interesting to see how the Red Devils react to their first home defeat of the season coming in the Manchester derby and it ending with them 11 points behind their local rivals. Will all the hoo hah afterwards, with milk and bottles being thrown, knock them back or make them more determined? Something is needed to wake up Romelu Lukaku, who has reverted back to the lassez-faire performances he showed at times with Everton. Under Alex Ferguson you would have expected United to go on a run and chase down Citeh, applying pressure and seeing if they would crack. Is that Man Utd still there or have the years since killed their spirit?
Most important player: Romelu Lukaku. The big Belgian has to learn how to strike the ball with more than just power. Smashing it as hard as possible works brilliantly when it is going for you, but as soon as you hit a bad run of form the shots end up anywhere but the goal. Even the keeper's face becomes an unbreakable blockade when your luck is out. Instead of talking about how great he is, it is time to apply himself to becoming great, learning the basics, such as placement of shots.


B Smith (hip injury) out
Mings (back injury) out
Federici (knee injury) out

The Cherries have once again hit a bad run of form which has seen them fail to win in any of their last 4 matches, though the 3 draws they have managed to accrue in that time has stopped them slipping down the table, for now. It is time they found a way to grind out a few wins, as it is clear they are not going to get the points they need the way they are going currently. They cannot continue to rely on luck to nick them points here and there, opposing teams will not have team meltdowns over penalties against them every week. One thing that is blindingly obvious, despite his two goals at the weekend, Jermain Defoe up front does not work for them. Forgetting that they were only his second and third goals of the season, it is his lack of involvement in the build up and his desire to just hit every shot from every angle the moment he gets any slight sight of goal. When they are out of possession he is a passenger, but he can be a hindrance when they do have possession with his lack of ability in linking up with his team mates around him. Defoe just wants to shoot, he has no interest in team play, he has no interest in passing to a better placed teammate, it is all about him and that is not what a struggling team needs. They do not make enough chances to squander them shooting from 35 yards time after time, as Defoe does, repeatedly.
Most important player: Charlie Daniels. His willing runs down the left are a major source of Bournemouth's attacks.


Defining Battle: Man Utd will be missing the main source of their creativity with Paul Pogba out, that gives Bournemouth the chance to close out the midfield and shut it down completely. Dragging it into a chase around as they press and harry could work wonders, so long as the defence does not get drawn too high up the pitch to allow the long ball in behind to break the press. Without Pogba, United lack a man to break the press with a touch of skill, a quick drop of the shoulder, flick or trick followed by a surging run. If Fellaini is fit, they can play him up field as a target to hit when a press is applied, a simple long ball takes any press out of the game, it just needs to be accurate and to someone who can deal with it. If Fellaini is out as well, then the midfield press is the key, that can kill the United attack dead. If Bournemouth sit back and invite Man Utd on, then they are in real trouble as their defence is simply not good enough to deal with what they will face.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-0
Ed003 - 4-0
Ed004 - 3-1
Ed007 - 2-0
Ed018 - 2-0
Ed025 - 2-1
Ed033 - 1-0


Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton & Hove Albion 8pm kick off


Alderweireld (hamstring injury expected return 10th February 2018) out
Wanyama (MCL injury expected return 31st December back in full training) out
Sanchez (suspended) out

Spurs returned to winning ways with a thrashing of Stoke at the weekend, that broke a run of 4 matches without a win and arrested the slide down the table they had been undergoing. This season's Tottenham side has been a disappointment after the last couple of years, people have grown to expect them to provide a challenge, at the very least, to whoever ends up winning the Premier League. It has led to accusations in the media of Mauricio Pochettino taking his eye off the ball due to his new book coming out midseason. Personally I would suggest the issues of salaries being lower than their rivals and the affect this has had, with the loss of Kyle Walker and the comments of Danny Rose team harmony is not there, unlike in the previous two seasons. Pochettino's big task now is to bring them all together once more, which might well require him to finally win something, anything, to give the players that pleasure that comes from lifting a trophy and ensuring their place in the record books.
Most important player: Erik Lamela. His return to fitness is a huge boon for Pochettino. The Argentine is very similar to Roberto Firmino, in that he chases, harries and sets the press for the team when he is on the pitch, but also has great technical ability to play a key part in the team's attacks. Even coming off the bench, his burst of energy and workrate lifts the team and changes the game.


Bong (knee injury) slight doubt
Sidwell (back injury) out

It has all gone a little bit pear shaped for Chris Hughton's Brighton team. The Seagulls have now lost 2 in a row and have gone 5 games without a win. They are slowly slipping down the table, with little sign of arresting the slide. Like so many teams, the problem they have is goals. Also like so many other Prem teams, that problem partially stems from a lack of ambition on the pitch. A few years back the fashion was for teams to go for it when they were newly promoted from the Championship. You had Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce but most of the rest of the managers were sending their team out to try and win each game, rather than keep it tight and look for a clean sheet. That fashion has changed and has led to the gap between the top few and the rest growing, as only the top 6 sides send their teams out (most weeks anyway) looking to take the game to the opposition and go for a win. It has made the Prem a bit dull to watch and it has led to most of the teams struggling badly to score goals. Hughton has always been about discipline and organisation at the back, sacrificing attacking intent if needs be in the chase for a clean sheet. It is seeing them slide down the table, because they simply are not as good at it as teams with better quality players and they are not good enough at it to stifle to better attacks in the league. At some point Hughton will need to rethink it, if Brighton are to ever be any more than a relegation battler.
Most important player: Glenn Murray. He is their only real chance of getting the goals to achieve survival.


Defining Battle: this game will come down to how Brighton cope with the Spurs' full/wingbacks. They are a very major part of the Tottenham way of playing and will get forward at every opportunity and look to deliver balls into dangerous areas. Brighton have to find a way to peg them back if they are to get anything from this game.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 4-0
Ed004 - 4-1
Ed007 - 2-0
Ed018 - 2-0
Ed025 - 3-1
Ed033 - 2-0


West Ham United v Arsenal 8pm kick off


Fernandes (ankle injury) out
Kouyate (hamstring injury) slight doubt
Collins (hamstring injury expected return 26th December) out
Byram (thigh strain expected return 23rd December) out
Fonte (ankle injury expected return 20th January 2018) out

Breaking that run of 8 games without a win at the weekend, with a big (despite the scoreline it was a huge victory) 1-0 win over reigning champions Chelsea has created a completely different atmosphere around the Hammers. The appointment of David Moyes was not greeted with anything approaching enthusiasm by a large portion, probably the vast majority in fact, of West Ham fans. Their ire for the club's struggles were not directed at Moyes, but it still spilled over into a tense feeling at the ground, initially. That game seems to have changed everything, the fans were with the team, it was palpable that they were just happy to see the players making an effort at last and looking fit and willing to try. That visibly lifted the players and had a reciprocal effect on the crowd. West Ham are in real, genuine danger of relegation, but they just need to harness the crowd's backing and work their way out of it and they will be fine. Their is enough about the team to survive easily if they are trying.
Most important player: Marko Arnautovic. If the Austrian continues to put in as much effort as he did at the weekend, then West Ham will soon climb the table. His ability was never in doubt, it has always been his attitude and work ethic that has been an issue.


Ramsey (hamstring injury expected return 22nd December) major doubt
Mustafi (thigh strain expected return 16th December) out
Cazorla (plantaris injury) out

At home the Gunners have been excellent this season, but away from home they have been nothing short of awful, with just 2 wins and 4 defeats in their 8 matches. It is worrying that a team that has been so potent in the attack at home, notching up 21 goals in 8 games, has struggled so badly on the road managing just 9 goals in the same number of matches. Once again Arsenal have to step up and get their season back on track before a gap opens up on the teams above them, particularly the top 3, who are in danger of breaking away from the rest. Arsene Wenger needs to find an answer to the team's weakness in midfield, which allows opponents to attack them and exposes the frailty of their defensive system.
Most important player: Petr Cech. The big keeper has looked a shadow of his former self this season, time for him to rouse himself and show why he was seen as the missing link in the Arsenal side.


Defining Battle: Arsenal's midfield is a major weakness when not in possession and Ramsey's running power will be badly missed. Xhaka turns slower than milk, has the defensive ability of a 5 year old on the playground and none of the options to replace Ramsey have his energy of ability to time runs into the box. There will be no one to do the running for Xhaka, no one to chase back and try and cover the gaps. Unless Wenger finally realises his back 3 system is not suited to the players he has, then his hopes rest on his players keeping hold of the ball to stop the Hammers getting at that creaking defence. That leaves the key to this game in the centre of midfield, where the Gunners will need to dominate the ball, while the Hammers to press and harry like their lives depend on it. If the pressure forces Arsenal into mistakes, they can lose their discipline very easily and that will allow West Ham to capitalise.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 1-2
Ed004 - 1-2
Ed007 - 1-3
Ed018 - 1-2
Ed025 - 1-2
Ed033 - 0-2


Editor's Predictions Table
1. Ed033 - 93 points
1= Ed018 - 93 points
3. Ed002 - 89 points
4. Ed025 - 88 points
5. Ed004 - 85 points
6. Ed003 - 83 points
7. Ed007 - 79 points


*1 point is awarded for the correct result, 3 points for the correct score.
**updated 7th December 2017

Written by Tris Burke December 13 2017 06:04:48